Contributed by Linda Hendricks
I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the first Aikido Cruise with Mitsugi Saotome Shihan and Hiroshi Ikeda Shihan. Spearheaded by Steve Fasen, Shindai Dojo in Orlando Florida arranged and hosted the event. The venue was the Carnival ship Inspiration, January 22-27, 2005. We boarded Saturday afternoon and at 4:30 we assembled on the forward top deck of the Inspiration. Saotome Sensei and Ikeda Sensei held one-hour classes under the blue sky of the Gulf of Mexico and remarkable sunsets. Shindai Dojo hosted a cocktail party after our first practice. We had the opportunity to say hello to old friends and make new ones. The seminar attendees came from all over the world. Participants from the US came from points from Seattle, Washington to Big Pine Key, Florida and from San Diego, California to Burlington, Vermont. Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, England and Russia were well represented by their aikidoka. We had the opportunity to meet the families of our Aikido friends and have our families meet them. I am not too sure that was such a good idea J!
The itinerary had us spending alternating days in training and sightseeing/cruising. Each morning there was an early class taught by either Dennis Hooker Sensei or Dan Linden Sensei. Saotome Sensei and Ikeda Sensei held simultaneous classes twice a day alternating between open hand and weapons. The weather was a factor and in some ways enhanced our training. At times we were unable to lay the mats due to the windy conditions. One class Saotome Shihan taught kicking techniques to emphasize the need for balance, concentration and focus. Fortunately we removed our hakamas for that class. Hakamas are great until, on the top deck of a ship, you realize they are made of more than 6 yards of sailcloth. Ikeda Shihan, unable to be heard due to the wind, mimed the need for whole body movement, showing us the small shift in posture that will move even three men holding you.
There were two early afternoon classes, one with Patty Saotome Sensei and the other with Dennis Hooker Sensei. Patty Saotome Sensei had us working on kokyu and maintaining the center-to-center connection. Dennis Hooker Sensei led us in sensitivity training: allowing uke to go where uke wants to go. It is wonderful to have a variety of perspectives. As an added bonus on Sunday and Wednesday Saotome Sensei gave an afternoon talk followed by a question and answer session.
Each night we all met for the late seating dinner. Normally, the ship assigns your table and you eat at the same table each night. Carnival was gracious and set up a section for our group, giving us the option of changing tables. After dinner we availed ourselves of the many nightlife options of the ship. These included a casino, nightly stage shows and various clubs for dancing or social gatherings.
There were activities offered by Carnival for every age group. When at dock, you had a variety of excursion options to choose from. (These are not included in the price of the cruise). The weather prevented us from going to Grand Cayman Island, but Cozumel made up for it. Many of us went to the Mayan ruins of Tulum. What a great way to combine a family vacation and a seminar! I have it on great authority that there will be another in 2006. Please be sure to join us. Just make sure I have my reservation first!